New Voices–Expanding the Size of the Tent

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of two great conversations at Berkman today, which both boil down to increasing the number of voices on the Internet and in the technology field. Ultimately, we can’t have a liberal networked public sphere anywhere in the world if rich white guys in urban areas (the coveted ‘latte drinking pansy’ voting bloc) are the dominate group in every conversation.

First, I sat in on a meeting of the gender and technology group at Berkman which is asking what I think is a difficult but important question–why are women so underrepresented in the technology field and on the Net. As our blog research has shown, women are certainly blogging less than men in Iran, Russia, and the Arabic blogospheres. Check out the group’s blog and facebook group–and hopefully an event on the topic is coming soon to push the conversation forward. Seems like there isn’t enough research in this area either.

Second, David Sasaki from Rising Voices spoke today about efforts to increase the number (and quality) of underrepresented groups in online conversations. David showed some great videos from African bloggers and also discussed the micro-grants they are giving for citizen media training. He mentions how much demand there is now for this type of training, which was funded by a Knight Challenge Grant. He shared some great examples of what participants have done as part of the project–one of my favorites is a teacher blogging from the smallest school in the world–a 4 student school in a remote Iranian fishing village. On the site I also discovered Iran Inside Out, a great video project.

In many cases this type of work allows us a better, unfiltered view of countries like Iran that are either ignored by most traditional media, or only discussed in terms of the nuclear issue or other limited frames.

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